Billed as the world’s most affordable laptop, the NexDock is an amazing idea come to life: It’s a laptop shell that can transform a modern Windows phone into a real portable PC and deliver on Microsoft’s Continuum promise for Mobile.
Actually, I’m selling the NexDock short. While Continuum and Windows phone is one possibility for this versatile device, NexDock can also be paired with any mini-PC, including the Raspberry Pi 2/3, any Windows “stick” PC, or even a Kangaroo PC. In fact, according to Emre Kosmaz, who I met with in San Francisco yesterday, the product’s biggest interest so far has come from Raspberry Pi users.
If you’re not familiar, the NexDock is an Indiegogo campaign—like Kickstarter—with a goal of raising $300,000 to begin production for its backers. When the campaign started, pre-orders were available for just $79, but the current price—still a steal, really—is only $119.
Here’s what you get for this paltry sum: A China-made laptop that looks suspiciously like a MacBook Air, though it is decked out in white plastic, and not aluminum. It features a 14.1-inch 1366 x 768 matte screen, 2 USB 2.0 ports, mini-HDMI video, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack, plus stereo speakers. Plus a 10,000 mAh battery.
The NexDock weighs a bit under 3.3 pounds, and though one might complain about the plastic, I found it to be pleasant enough in use, and nicely-made, with a full-sized keyboard and a decent touchpad. While the device works well for a wide variety of uses—check out the NexDock Ideegogo page for details—I focused on its use with Windows 10 Mobile.
Here’s how it works: You connect your Continuum-capable phone—Emre used a Lumia 950—to the NexDock with a USB-C-to-mini-HDMI cable for video, and to its keyboard and touchpad via Bluetooth. Once physically connected, you get a standard Continuum experience with a desktop on the NexDock screen. As you should expect, you can use the device’s touchpad or your phone’s screen for cursor movement and selection, and the NexDock keyboard for typing. Apps launched on the NexDock desktop launch on the big screen, and if you choose to launch apps on the phone itself, they will launch there.
The performance was good in my limited testing, with no serious lag, and the keyboard, trackpad and phone-based screen/trackpad all worked as I expected. Emre told me that you could attack storage via USB or microSD and it would work just fine. You can also use one of the USB ports, which provides 2 amps of power, to charge your device.
If you’re paying attention to the Windows phone scene and are interested in Continuum, you have surely heard that HP is launching a similar product in its Mobile Extender for the Elite x3 Windows phone. The differences between these two products are important, I think.
First, the NexDock is almost certainly going to be a lot less expensive than the HP offering, which may be hard to purchase for individuals. Second, while the HP is sleeker and made of more impressive materials, I happen to prefer the larger screen size of the NexDock. And third, the HP will be more elegant in that it will support a fully wireless experience, plus use USB-C for wired.
NexDock says it is looking to a future version of its product that will support USB-C and a fully wireless experience. But the current version is so affordable and versatile—remember, it is much more than just a Windows phone solution—that I have a hard time quibbling about that. For Windows phone users, the NexDock is quite literally Continuum in a box.
Should you get one? From what I can see, these guys are fighting the good fight. And having now experienced the device, I’ve contributed $119 to support NexDock. If you’re excited to use your Continuum-capable Windows phone as a laptop, you should consider doing so as well.